DURING THE early 1980s I used to DJ at this jazz funk club in Watford called the New Penny. One night two scrawny young men approached me clasping a seven-inch record, which they claimed they had just finished recording. They begged me to play it. I agreed. They cleared the floor and treated the crowd to a mime and dance routine that had us all in stitches.
But the smile was soon wiped off our faces. The two in question were George Michael and his sidekick Andrew Ridgeley, soon to be better known as Wham! They went on to become two of the biggest international pop stars of the 1980s. George Michael is once again making headlines.
His new single, 'Shoot the Dog', has just been released. It is a brilliant, barbed attack on George Bush, Tony Blair and US imperialism. If you only get to see one pop video this year, make sure this is it. Shot in cartoon form, there is a brilliant scene of a poodle with Blair's face being tickled by George Bush. Another scene has Michael astride a nuclear missile at the bottom of Blair's bed. George Michael made clear his views on Bush's drive to war in an interview he gave the Daily Mirror last week.
He told a reporter, 'I really feel this is such a serious time for us all, and being silent is not an option.' He added, 'I don't consider Americans bullies but I do consider the American government bullies-they've largely controlled the world for the past 50 years with money, political power and military force.'
George's comments have sent a shock wave through the media. Even BBC2's Newsnight ran a 20-minute item discussing the issues raised by the song! Many reporters are claiming that George Michael's comments are out of character. I for one don't think they are.
The Wham! single 'Young Guns' was a quirky warning against teenage pregnancy. And when the Tory zealot Norman Tebbit told the unemployed to get on their bikes and look for work, George Michael hit back with 'Wham! Rap', a celebratory view of life on the dole. Wham! were S Club 7 with a conscience.
Also it is now almost a forgotten fact that George Michael supported the miners who were on strike in 1984-5. Along with Paul Weller's Style Council and Billy Bragg, Wham! played a benefit for striking miners at the Festival Hall in London. Then there was George Michael's battle against multimedia conglomerate Sony Records. Desperate to leave the label, he refused to record for two years. His stand forced Sony to back down.
Sadly, being 'outed' as gay has ended the career of many a celebrity. So things did not look good when the gutter press ran the story of George Michael's entrapment by an undercover Los Angeles police officer in a public toilet.
George hit back. His frank and open account of his sexuality and his explanation as to why some gay men cottage turned the tables on the bigots. I never thought I'd write this in Socialist Worker, but I think the last word should go to George Michael:
'My fear about Mr Blair and his desire to be seen as our first president is that he is happy to see us distracted when there are very important issues to be decided upon like peace and justice.'